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'Got Talent' show comes to China

CHINA has seen many reality TV star-making shows come and go, all for young people who dream of overnight stardom as pop singers. The quality is mixed and some have been in dubious taste. But now the bar is being raised on what is hoped will be another sensation in the international series "Got Talent."

Dragon TV has purchased the China rights to produce "China's Got Talent" from Fremantle Media, owner of the "Britain's Got Talent" and the "Got Talent" spin-offs. This is the first time a Chinese TV channel has purchased the format of a prestigious foreign star-making program.

The China show will be the 35th in the "Got Talent" show worldwide; five of them are in Asia.

The live elimination rounds will start airing weekly on July 25 at 7:30pm.

More than 5,000 contestants from around China have applied. And registration will remain open through July 10.

Like all the "Got Talent" shows, this one will be open to everyone of all ages - male, female, kids, teens, adults, seniors, dogs, cats, birds - individuals or groups, you name it. And the talents can be anything from acrobatics to opera.

Talent will be emphasized, not looks or touching personal stories. The slogan is "No barriers to entry, and no limits to performance type."

In "Britain's Got Talent" 2008 a woman and her dog, "Kate and Gin," performed the famous "James Bond" movie theme. The dog danced. They got into the finals but failed to make the top three.

So far in China, contestants include subway staff who can skip rope and hit a shuttlecock at the same time, and a 61-year-old massage therapist who performs "Nessun Dorma" ("None Shall Sleep") from the opera "Turandot."

It may be wide open but bear in mind, the performance has got to be good. In Britain winners perform before the Royal Family.

The China winners will receive a performance contract with Fremantle Media and Sony Music Entertainment. He or she (or they, if it's a group) are likely to perform in Las Vegas for three months and be a guest performer on the world tour concert of Taiwan singer Jolin Tse.

To date, Chinese talent shows have been for young men, women or families. Hunan Satellite TV's "Super Girls" and Dragon's "My Hero" and "Angels" are among the better known.

The shows have been wildly popular, especially early ones that were all televised live and relied heavily on SMS voting. Several years ago Chinese broadcasting officials said many were tasteless and scenes of thousands of young girls swooning were inappropriate. Content was curtailed, so were airing times, live shows and SMS voting. Industry experts say the shows that have been produced since then are of higher caliber.

Three-person jury

"China's Got Talent" will be strictly based on the original's TV format, including retaining the same three-person jury throughout the finals. Criticism is expected to be pointed, as well, though it may not be as harsh as in the United Kingdom. The panel has not yet been announced.

To maintain the spirit and basic content, senior UK experts and producers of "Got Talent" will advise Dragon TV on site about numerous issues, including stage effects, broadcasting and handling eliminations.

Some additions have been made to attract Chinese viewers. Well-known contestants from "Britain's Got Talent," such as singer and Internet sensation Susan Boyle, may perform.

As the World Expo is underway in Shanghai, some Expo elements, including stage sets and Expo songs, will be included.

On September 19, the finalists of "China's Got Talent," as well as winners of the "Got Talent" series in Britain, the United States and Europe will present a joint show in the Expo's Culture Center.

Veteran TV producer Li Tian says it's a challenge to make a foreign show relevant to China without losing its original flavor and appeal.

In addition, he says, many Chinese rely on personal storytelling so they select numerous people with interesting stories and less interesting talent.

"But this time the contestants must have real talent regardless of their age, background and gender," he says.

While some observers are concerned the show will lose its original spirit in China, Fotini Paraskakis, Fremantle Media Asia's production director, disagrees.

"The key to success in international formats these days is their ability to deliver a core concept, while giving flexibility for localization in each territory.

"In every country, we see localization as culture, talent and tastes are different and our formats need to be open to cater for these changes," she says.

In each country and territory, the series has begun to ingrain itself in local culture and give people of all ages and talents the opportunity to perform on stage, Paraskakis says.


"And with China being of such importance in the world today, we were keen to have its involvement."

Jin Lei, director of "China's Got Talent," says Chinese TV producers are increasingly aware that successful international formats can give them international branding, wider distribution and international expertise.

"This collaboration is helping us find our niche in the world's top-notch talent shows," Jin says. "'Got Talent' has very detailed and precise formulas." These include suggestions on the best number of cameras, interview rooms and working staff during auditions.

"We can gain a lot of advanced experience," he says.

Jin believes reality talent shows have an inherent power and will get more popular as China has so much untapped talent.

He also expects Chinese "idol" shows to sell their own formats to other countries in the future.

Some observers have raised property rights concerns.

Last December, Hunan Satellite TV bought the format of Fremantle Media's reality dating show "Take Me Out," but several months after its debut, the show's stage settings, script and operations had been plagiarized by other provincial satellite TVs.

"We face this problem every day across the globe, but we are very confident in our brands and in 'Got Talent'," says Paraskakis. "Our shows usually are more sustainable than these copies. When clients acquire from Fremantle, they know they are acquiring quality and that audiences will respond to this."

Veteran TV producer Li says that it is good to see local media's increasing awareness of copyright but questions whether the new approach can really elevate the qualities of Chinese mainland talent shows.

For more information, check

Registration hotline 400-820-2732.


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